I set a goal about a decade ago to get an electric vehicle someday. At the time, short driving range was a deal-breaker, so I went with a hybrid. Now, with batteries improving and the variety of models continuing to expand, EV ownership seems within reach.
I can’t help wondering how I would handle the experience. Surely I would have a Level 2 charger installed in the garage, so I could power up at home. In a pinch, maybe I could charge at work.
In a real pinch, I suppose I could head to the nearby AAA office and use the DC fast charger there. But hmmm — how practical would that be at night, when the parking lot is otherwise empty and there’s nothing to do but wait? I don’t think so.
Nope. Be it ever so humble, I’m thinking there’s no place like home ... for charging. Studies show I’m not alone in that sentiment. (Check out Deputy Mobility Editor Pete Bigelow’s Q&A with J.D. Power’s Stewart Stropp.)
But convenient as it is, home charging simply is not an option for many people. Solutions are needed for people without driveways and garages. People also need access to energy while far from home, whether on an interstate or a country road in small-town U.S.A.
That’s where public charging outlets come in. At last check, close to 105,000 public Level 2 AC chargers and DC fast chargers dotted the landscape in the U.S.
Amid a federal push to create a network five times as large, there are many factors to weigh, not the least of which is where the chargers should be placed to best serve EV owners (see “Driveway or the Highway?” and “Rural and Ready”) and how automakers can help ensure a seamless experience (“Power Play Goal”.)
In this issue of Shift, we also explore alternative approaches, including Cornell University’s research into charging vehicles in motion, using electrical wires embedded in the road. (“Rolling Recharge”) There’s also battery swapping, which has yet to take off in the U.S. but is gaining popularity in China. Yang Jian reports from Shanghai in “Awake at the Switch”.
With automakers rolling out grand plans for EVs, the need for better charging infrastructure is no longer a chicken-and-egg issue. From all appearances, these EVs are coming, ready or not. It may take at least a decade for them to make a substantial dent in U.S. sales, but in auto industry time, that’s right around the corner.